Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson is a CNN contributor, a senior writer for ESPN and a lecturer at Northwestern University. He is a former Hechinger Institute fellow and his commentary has been recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Mia Love became the first black Republican woman in Congress
LZ Granderson says her life story is inspirational and reflects MLK's dream
He says Love's story shows that Democrats don't have exclusive right to black voters
I hope President Obama called to congratulate Mia Love.
The way he called college student Sandra Fluke after Rush Limbaugh called her a “prostitute.” The way he called the NBA’s first openly gay player, Jason Collins. The way he called the San Francisco Giants after they won the World Series.
I hope he called Mia Love because her story is every bit as unlikely, courageous and yes, inspirational, as his own. Love – the first black Republican woman elected to Congress – will not be his political ally and that’s OK. I spoke with membership services and blacks are no longer revoked for voting Republican.
If you don’t believe me, please note the most popular black television character on network television is Scandal’s “Olivia Pope.” She worked to elect a Republican president twice and no one on #blacktwitter calls her an Uncle/Aunt Tom.
Love is progress, whether so-called progressives want to embrace it or not. Her election is a reflection, yea an extension of the Rev.. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, born in Brooklyn, living in Utah, a state that is less than 1% black, judged by the content of her character. And because of that, she is coming to Washington. If that is not what the dream is all about then we truly have lost our way.
As Democrats spend the remainder of the week infighting after losing the Senate, licking wounds from gubernatorial defeats in blue/purple states such as Illinois and Wisconsin, and searching for survivors in what can only be described as a midterm slaughter, I can’t help but wonder if the victor with the most influence on 2016 is Love.
For if the sexist/racist/anti-immigration narrative that has long dogged the GOP can, at the very least, be challenged by her presence at a campaign, what will Democrats use to fire up low-information liberals? The blue’s yin to the red’s “Obama is the worse president ever” yang. Not to mention that Love (along with South Carolina’s Tim Scott, the first black senator elected in the South since Reconstruction) is an affront to those Republican voters who do harbor racist thoughts.
Whether Love and Scott will go along to get along when the conversation regarding immigration or public assistance starts to sound a little too much like the GOP of the 1990s remains to be seen. But what is clear is that Love knows how to overcome adversity.
Her father worked as a janitor, among other jobs, to put her through school at the University of Hartford. After speaking at the Republican National Convention in 2012, where she said “my parents immigrated to the U.S. with $10 in their pocket … when times got tough, they didn’t look to Washington, they looked within” as well as that Obama’s “policies have failed.” Afterward, her Wikipedia page was vandalized, as those who didn’t approve of her brief address called her a “whore,” “sellout” and “House N–r.”
Insert “war on women” joke here.
The first time she ran for Congress, she lost.
Yet through it all, she persevered.
Perhaps when Sen. Rand Paul said the GOP had a shot to attract a third of the black vote in 2016, he had Love in mind. Folks can identify with the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps narrative that is often embraced by GOP minority candidates in one way or another.
For more than 40 years, Democratic presidential candidates have enjoyed the support of more than 80% of black voters, and yet the community’s unemployment rate remains twice that of its white counterpart. The wealth gap between blacks and whites has grown. The criminal justice system is riddled with discrepancies along racial lines. Paul has spoken about these concerns with compassion, albeit clumsily at times.
Newly elected Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, aggressively went after the black vote in Chicago — despite it being President Obama’s backyard — with a message that he could turn around the economic woes that have hampered the community. And in turn he did manage to receive endorsements from numerous pastors and high-profile blacks.
Of course it didn’t hurt that the wealthy Republican invested $1 million of his own money in the South Side Community Federal Credit Union, which is in a predominantly black neighborhood.
“(He’s) taking the black vote for granted,” Rauner said in a debate with Quinn that was sponsored by the Urban League. While he ended up with only 6% of the black vote, the fact that he would be so bold with his intentions shows the days of Republicans ignoring the black vote may in fact be gone. Just south of Rauner, Ohio incumbent Gov. John Kasich received 26% of the black vote.
If blacks are willing to buck the trend and vote Republican, then it would only make sense that the GOP would have black candidates. And black elected officials, like Love, an outsider who came out of nowhere to shock the world and claim her own piece of the dream.
Sort of like another history-making black elected official we know.